Airline Highway / US 61 & 190 & Florida Boulevard / US 190
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
By the mid-1970s, Louisiana's Capital Area was ready for its own megamall. 103 acres were sectioned from the 418 acre Cortana Plantation tract. The site was situated 5.3 miles east of the Bayou State Statehouse.
Construction, under the auspices of Baton Rouge-based Milton J. Womack Incorporated, got underway in 1974. In February 1976, the first store was completed; a 1-level (118,500 square foot) Goudchaux's, which was the Baton Rouge-based chain's first branch location.
This was joined by a 2-level (200,000 square foot) J.C. Penney, 2-level (241,000 square foot) Sears, 2-level (238,000 square foot) Dillard's and 1-level (90,000 square foot), Baton Rouge-based H.J. Wilson Catalogue Showroom.
The official dedication of CORTANA MALL was held August 3, 1976. With a retail roster of over one hundred stores and services, and a GLA of 1,386,300 square feet, the mammoth merchandising mecca opened as the largest shopping mall in the state, a distinction it holds to this day.
In addition to its five anchors, the complex housed stores such as Thom McAn Shoes, Foxmoor Casuals, Chess King, Dutch Maid Donuts, Record Bar, Waldenbooks and Cortana Holiday Hallmark, as well as a Piccadilly Cafeteria and Cortana Mall I-II-III multiplex.
The first enlargement of store space took place in 1981, when Goudchaux's added a second level. The store now incorporated 237,000 square feet. In the mid-1980s, a 2-level (82,000 square foot) Mervyn's was built, along with a seven store (12,600 square foot) wing. CORTANA MALL now spanned 1,600,000 leasable square feet.
Three anchor stores have gone through rebranding scenarios over the years. Goudchaux's became a Goudchaux's / Maison Blanche in 1982 and Maison Blanche in 1988. With Dillard's acquisition of Mercantile stores, in May 1998, Dillard's bounced from its original anchor spot (at the north end of the mall) to the Goudchaux's / Maison Blanche spot (on the south).
The original Dillard's store was sold to Saks, Inc., who re-opened the space as a Birmingham-based Parisian in December 1998. This store was rebranded as another Saks Inc. subsidiary, Jackson-based McRae's, September 7, 1999.
Wilson's Catalogue Showroom morphed into a Service Merchandise in 1985 and Steve and Barry's University Sportswear in September 2004. This location was shuttered, along with the chain, in late 2008. A campus for Birmingham-based Virginia College opened in the structure on October 4, 2010. Mervyn's, shuttered in February 2006, is presently vacant.
The first shopping mall in the city, the open-air BON MARCHE (1964), was enclosed in 1971. This center was located 1 mile west of CORTANA. Nowadays, it is known as BON CARRE BUSINESS CENTER, a tech / call center and office complex. Next came the first retail venue built as an enclosed structure, ESPLANADE MALL (1973), which sits 3.2 miles southwest of CORTANA.
The proliferation of regional shopping hubs hurt business at CORTANA MALL. A makeover, completed in November 1991, attempted to reverse this trend. A second update, done in 1997 and 1998, included resurfacing of the parking lot, new landscaping inside and out, new ceiling treatments and interior lighting. A name change, to MALL AT CORTANA, also came about.
The official name of the center reverted back to CORTANA MALL in 2009. This event was joined by the opening of several new inline stores...including Trios West, 80 Stitches, Baton Rouge Police Supply, Cozamel Mexican Restaurant, Bernard's Pralines and Goldman's Jewelers.
New York City-based Mall Properties, Incorporated, saddled with an upside down mall mortgage, sold the CORTANA property back to the lendor in April 2011. The Dallas-based Woodmont Company was brought in the manage the property and lease its vacant area. It is likely that the property will be resold sometime in the near future. Today, it houses over one hundred store spaces.
"Mall At Cortana" article on Wikipedia